Nothing like a little controversy on a spring afternoon…
When I was a little girl I remember standing in a long line in the elementary school gymnasium, waiting to get my state-mandated immunizations. They wouldn’t let me in school without it, and I’m sure it never entered my parents’ minds to even consider not getting us immunized.
I also remember kids getting mumps, and measles, and other diseases you rarely see today.
When I was pregnant with Son I became more aware of the concern about a possible link between autism and immunizations, and the concerns are still there. The Thimerisol used as a preservative in many vaccines was such a cause for concern and received so much bad press it’s no longer used as an ingredient in vaccines today. The link between vaccines and autism has been the subject of many scientific studies; they just can’t seem to find any science linking it. But the passion behind the “anecdotal evidence” is hard to ignore, or dismiss, especially when you are a new mother thinking about allowing these vaccines to be injected into your child. Which left me confused.
Are the vaccines worse than the diseases they supposedly protect from? The vast, vast majority of children suffer no ill effects, and many of the typical diseases that were still around when I was a kid have been mostly eradicated due to the great majority of children being vaccinated. I’ll bet the parents of many autistic children, and children who may have had other suspected or proven vaccination-related issues, would say yes, the vaccines are worse. They may regret their decision to vaccinate. And who can blame them?
So as a new parent I was very afraid. But in the end I decided to go with the odds and have Son vaccinated, though I spread out the timing a bit. That probably did nothing but make me feel like I was doing something to mitigate the risk, but whatever. Apparently I’m not above a little self-delusion.
Every day I searched for signs that he was having “ill affects”. I willed him to make eye contact, which he did. And when it became obvious that he was having some speech delays I was terrified. We put him in speech therapy and enrolled him in school two mornings a week, and we prayed. We’re lucky that he was done with speech therapy at age 3, and I recently had him evaluated and the results were all typical for his age. Thank you, G-d. We are blessed.
Still, I’ve wondered if there is truly a link. I have friends who have chosen not to immunize, and I’ve always understood and supported their choices. I still do. It’s such a personal decision.
Recently I heard about the twelve children in San Diego who contracted measles, which can be a fatal disease, especially in the very young or immuno-suppressed. Nine of the twelve had not been vaccinated. Three were too young, and six had parents opposed to the vaccinations. On the Today Show the other morning they ran a story about this, and asked the question, “Is your decision not to vaccinate your child more important than the population’s health at large?”
That’s quite a question.
Vaccines are not 100% effective. Children who have been vaccinated can still contract the disease. The more unvaccinated people there are, the more risk of transmission.
So, where does your right to decide for your child end and your responsibility for the public health begin?
I don’t know. I just don’t know.
I’m reminded of a story I read many years ago, while still in high school. Now I want to warn you, this is one of the most depressing stories I’ve ever heard, but what can I tell you, I was reminded.
I don’t recall all of the details, but it involved people hiding in an underground bunker hiding from oppressive forces (Nazi’s?) * searching for them. A woman was holding her very young infant, and the baby’s cries were putting the entire hidden group in great danger of discovery. The mother put her hand over the child’s mouth, and eventually the soldiers moved on. Everyone survived, except the baby.
That story has haunted me ever since. What a horrible, horrible decision to make. What a horrible, horrible action to take. What a horrible, horrible thing to live with. There was just no way to win.
Can we win? Isn’t parenting just making the best decision you can, and praying for a good outcome? The decisions I make as a parent, even decisions that seem to be only related to my family, can have far reaching effects.
What do you think? Did you/will you have your children immunized? Does the population at large factor into your decision?
* Edited to add that Husband says I didn’t read it, but that it was a scene in an episode on M*A*S*H, and the oppressive forces were the North Koreans.